I Brought Bed Bugs Home From a Recent Trip — Here’s Why I Won’t Change How I Travel

I started to have an identity crisis about my personal travel style but then realized infestations can happen anywhere.

<p>Getty Images </p>

Getty Images

Paris is no trendsetter when it comes to exposing tourists to bed bugs, but it took an outbreak during fashion week in one of the planet’s most elegant cities to make my recent brush with the subject feel chic enough to discuss widely.

During the first night in bed in the boutique hotel I chose on a recent trip, I woke up feeling a phantom itch on my legs. I was immediately transported back to my backpacking days, when I spent one full month on the road encountering bed bugs in every property I stayed in, from hostels, to resorts, to even a two-night boat trip.

But this time, with two more nights in the same bed ahead, I told myself it was in my head — and my husband was happy to agree. It wasn’t until a few days later when rows of bites started to appear all over my legs in suspicious patterns, that I was ready to accept reality. I knew it was true that physical evidence of bed bug bites can be delayed anywhere between one and several days after you’re bitten, as per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

Bed bugs do not like tea tree oils, peppermint oil, or lavender, according to a flight attendant with advice on how to check your hotel room for the tiny insects. Travelers can make or buy a spray to use on their suitcase that'll act as a repellent.

On our return home, I immediately washed every item of clothing from our bags. Having not found anything suspicious, we put our suitcases away and put it out of our minds. That is, until we got home from a night out a few nights later and found a deceased bed bug on an area rug outside our bedroom. It was 2 a.m. — there was nothing to do but go to sleep, but nightmares about bed bugs plagued me all night.

In the morning, a friend referred me to her bed bug guy (she was coming out of her own recent scare), and a couple of texts and photos back and forth confirmed what I was dreading — there was definitely at least one bed bug in my apartment.

I made an appointment for inspection immediately and two days (and $400) later, my two beds, couch, and luggage were all drenched in pesticides. Luckily, no other signs of bugs were found. But our exterminator wasn’t surprised to hear that we found a bed bug after a recent trip as according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) an appearance of these critters can happen due to travel.

Aside from the anxiety that came with dealing with a potential infestation in my home, this experience brought other conflicting emotions to the surface — leading to an identity crisis about my personal travel style. In the miserable few days spent stripping beds, rolling up rugs and evacuating my apartment to let the pesticides do their work, I didn’t tell any of my colleagues about what I was going through, because the truth is, I was embarrassed. I felt like getting bed bugs was my fault because I chose to stray from the luxury resorts of the destination I was in.

Upon my recent bed bug scare, I was told by multiple people in my life that it’s simply time to level up on the accommodation I was booking. But, though I'm older and more financially established now than I was when I backpacked across Southeast Asia and India ten years ago, my preference for travel hasn’t changed. Yes, I now enjoy a luxury stay here and there, obviously. But on almost every trip I take, I still try to see a range of accommodations, from Airbnbs to boutique and luxury properties, and I’ll even take a private room in a hostel when it makes sense.

Even though it was easy to feel resentment toward the hotel that gave me bed bugs (let me be clear, this place was clean, comfortable and had a beautiful setting!), eschewing more affordable stays is not how I want to travel. Staying flexible in that way is important to me — and pairing a few nights of luxury with a few nights somewhere more accessible is also a really great way to lighten the impact on my wallet. And by the way, infestations can happen anywhere, even on public transportation in the midst of a high-end global design event.

When I look back on my experience from ten years ago, it’s not the bed bugs that are the first thing I remember. It’s the people I met and the places I saw that made the most impact. The temporary inconvenience of insect anxiety I experienced then is long gone. And my most recent bout of the same soon will be too. 

For more Travel & Leisure news, make sure to sign up for our newsletter!

Read the original article on Travel & Leisure.